Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother

Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker


By Barry Sonnenfeld

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**A New York Times Editor's Choice selection!**

This outrageous and hilarious memoir follows a film and television director’s life, from his idiosyncratic upbringing to his unexpected career as the director behind such huge film franchises as The Addams Family and Men in Black.

Barry Sonnenfeld's philosophy is, "Regret the Past. Fear the Present. Dread the Future." Told in his unmistakable voice, Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother is a laugh-out-loud memoir about coming of age. Constantly threatened with suicide by his over-protective mother, disillusioned by the father he worshiped, and abused by a demonic relative, Sonnenfeld somehow went on to become one of Hollywood's most successful producers and directors.

Written with poignant insight and real-life irony, the book follows Sonnenfeld from childhood as a French horn player through graduate film school at NYU, where he developed his talent for cinematography. His first job after graduating was shooting nine feature length pornos in nine days. From that humble entrée, he went on to form a friendship with the Coen Brothers, launching his career shooting their first three films.

Though Sonnenfeld had no ambition to direct, Scott Rudin convinced him to be the director of The Addams Family. It was a successful career move. He went on to direct many more films and television shows. Will Smith once joked that he wanted to take Sonnenfeld to Philadelphia public schools and say, "If this guy could end up as a successful film director on big budget films, anyone can." This book is a fascinating and hilarious roadmap for anyone who thinks they can't succeed in life because of a rough beginning.


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Foreword: Spooky Action at a Distance

In 2011, I directed Men in Black 3, the third and final film in my MIB trilogy. It was a profoundly painful experience. Someday I might write about it.

Etan Cohen—not to be confused with Ethan Coen, Joel Coen’s brother, who uses the same letters of the alphabet but puts the “h” in his first name, unlike Etan, who saves it for his last—wrote the screenplay. I co-wrote a pivotal sequence in which a character named Griffin the Archanan explains the concept of quantum mechanics to Will Smith and Josh Brolin—Agents J and K.

Griffin, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, is the last surviving member of the Archanan race and, as such, has the unique ability to see infinite potential outcomes of any action. I called him a “Quantum Mechanic.” He is loosely based on me.

In the scene, set at Shea Stadium in the summer of 1969, Griffin offers Agents J and K a device to save Earth. He also provides them with proof of his quantum time–viewing ability by showing them the final game of the 1969 World Series, which won’t happen for another three months.

The truth he reveals is that life is a series of accidents, and only the most optimistic of all possible outcomes would have resulted in me, Barry Sonnenfeld, making it to this point in life.


That’s not what Griffin says.

What he says is this:

There are so many futures and they’re all real. You just don’t know which ones will coalesce. Until then, they’re all happening. Like this one: It’s my favorite moment in human history. All the things that had to converge for the Mets to win the World Series. They were in last place every season until they won it all.

That baseball, for instance, thrown for the last out in Game 5, manufactured in 1962 by the Spalding factory of Chicopee, Massachusetts. It was aerodynamically flawed due to the horsehide being improperly tanned because Sheila, the tanner’s wife, left him for a Puerto Rican golf pro that Sunday.

When that ball is pitched to Davey Johnson, who only became a baseball player because his father couldn’t find a football to give him for his 8th birthday, it hits his bat two micrometers too high, causing him to pop up to Cleon Jones, who would have been born Clara, a statistical typist, if his parents didn’t have an extra glass of wine that night before going to bed.

A miracle is what seems impossible but happens anyway.

That summarizes the story of my life.

Directing Griffin the Archanan. Men in Black 3.

I was at Shea that day when the Miracle Mets won the World Series, cheering on the home team with Judy Dakin, a zaftig Jewish girl I was in love with. We played hooky from Music & Art High School and took the 7 train out to Shea. At twenty bucks for the pair, Judy and I bought a couple of scalped tickets to history.

It’s been a slow process, but over the past several decades, I’ve started to embrace another theory of quantum mechanics. I wonder if I have died multiple times and managed in each incident to move to a different multiverse—one where, instead of dying, I miraculously live on in a world exactly like the one I previously lived in, except:

My father managed to swerve the Caddy back into our lane and avoid a head-on collision with a tractor trailer.

I wasn’t killed by muggers on 14th Street and Fifth Avenue.

I didn’t die when my plane crashed at Van Nuys Airport.

And most recently, the elk I hit doing 70 miles an hour on I-80 forty miles east of North Platte, Nebraska, didn’t kill me.

6:40 a.m., I-80 West, North Platte, Nebraska. HDR 9 exposures.

Or maybe there are no multiple universes and I’m just very lucky.

Of course, luck can be a subjective thing. There’s the story of a Japanese man who was visiting Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on that city. He survived the nuclear explosion. Over the next three days, he managed to walk, bike, and hitchhike the four hundred kilometers back to his hometown of Nagasaki, whereupon the United States dropped an atomic bomb on that city. The man survived. So, are we calling this guy the luckiest man in the world—surviving two nuclear bombs? Or should we consider him the unluckiest—the only man on earth to be in the two places that have experienced the devastation of nuclear war?

I’ve been thinking about how it happened that I turned out the way I did, which, from certain perspectives, could be considered healthy and successful.

I am by all accounts one of the most neurotic people on the planet. Matt Lauer, on The Today Show, told me I was the most neurotic person he had ever interviewed.

Larry David—no slouch when it comes to neurosis—and I once had a shouting match, past Barry Diller and Donald J. Trump, across the power breakfast room at the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City, arguing about who is more neurotic. I was having breakfast with Chris Meledandri, pitching my idea for an animated movie called Dinosaurs vs. Aliens, which he wasn’t interested in. I hadn’t seen Larry, who was at the opposite side of the restaurant, when I heard his distinctive voice:

“Sonnenfeld. You claim you’re more neurotic than me, and there you are, having eggs with yolks, butter on your bread… and bacon?!”

“Extra crispy,” I yelled back.

Larry and I only casually knew each other, but we were both friends of Cheryl Hines, who played Larry’s wife on Curb Your Enthusiasm and acted in several films I directed. We had each asked Cheryl which one of us was more neurotic. Cheryl knew that whomever she chose as more mentally unstable, the other guy would be deeply insulted. But after a year’s worth of pressure from both sides, Cheryl caved, announcing on Late Night with David Letterman that I was the most neurotic person she had ever met.

Somehow, I’ve managed to live an unusual and amazing life. Was it in spite of or because of what follows?


Barry Sonnenfeld. Call Your Mother.

At 2:20 a.m., as January 28th gave way to the 29th, I knew my father was dead. It was 1970, and I was at Madison Square Garden with Judy Dakin. The next morning, I would discover she wore magenta satin panties.

At the time of the concert, we were students at Music & Art High School. I was a french horn player; Judy had gotten in on her piano skills. We were protesting the Vietnam War along with 22,000 other lovers of peace, not war, by attending the Winter Festival for Peace concert.

Jimi Hendrix and his Band of Gypsies were warming up for the second time. Earlier in the evening Hendrix had been on stage, tuned his guitar, walked around a bit, and then, not feeling the vibe, walked off in a huff.

It was a tad unsettling.

Other musical acts moved up in the queue, including Blood, Sweat & Tears; Richie Havens; the Rascals; Harry Belafonte; Dave Brubeck; Judy Collins; and the cast of Hair.

There was, of course, a moving version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Peter, Paul and Mary.

I was eight weeks short of my 17th birthday and was living a life (if you call it living) full of contradictions. I had never been out this late without my parents, yet I went to the most progressive public high school in New York City. I was the shortest male attending Music & Art, though nine months later I would be six feet tall, still retaining my “short” weight of 108 pounds. I was exceedingly overprotected by my parents, yet to their credit, neither one of them wanted me to take on an iconic Jewish profession, like the law, medicine, or finance. My mother wanted me to be an artist and my father told me to decide what would bring me pleasure in life and figure out how to make money doing it.

As profoundly short as I was, every day I trudged a quite large Sansone full double french horn to Music & Art on the 104 bus, hoping to run into Rosaline Jacobowitz, a clarinetist who had a prominent blackhead on the right side of her nose crease.

My mother feared for my life on an hourly basis, yet the high school she had secretly worked the system to get me into was located at 135th Street and Convent Avenue, in the heart of Harlem, which, during the mid-’60s, was a very, very dangerous neighborhood.

For all her insanity, her fears, her lies, and her neediness, my mother, Irene “Kelly” (her maiden name was Kellerman) Sonnenfeld, was politically aware and outspoken. Kelly had attended Hunter College, and, according to my mother, her best friend at the school was future congresswoman and large hat wearer Bella Abzug.

I say “according to my mother” because Irene “Kelly” Sonnenfeld was a pathological liar, which was excellent training for working with certain film producers and studio executives down the road.

Mom was a liberal, hinting that she might have at one time been a communist. One of the worst days of her life was the day Adlai Stevenson died, and nothing could make her “go through the roof” more quickly than my Eleanor Roosevelt jokes:

So Eleanor and Franklin are taking a rare Sunday drive through the Hudson Valley. Franklin didn’t like spending time with Eleanor, she was so self-righteous, but it had been months and he felt a little sorry for her. The sun was shining, the sky blue with hope, and they were sitting in the back of an open-air car.

Eleanor, feeling giddy, asked: “Franklin, notice anything different about me?”

Franklin, who was already having regrets about the drive, gives it a try:

“Um, new dress. Quite lovely.”

“This old thing? I wore it at our wedding. And it’s my ‘feed the hogs’ attire. Come on, Franklin. Look at me. Don’t you notice anything different?”

“New gloves.”

“Seriously, Franklin? These are my cow milking gloves. I’ve had these for years.”


“Oh come on, Franklin. These are my sensible shoes. I wore these the first time we ever met. And, also at our wedding.”

Franklin, no longer wanting to play this game, looks at her with a sense of boredom, disdain, and dread:

“I give up, Eleanor. What’s different?”

“I’m wearing a gas mask!” she exclaims.

“I am going to go through the roof, Barry. Not funny.”

And then, Mom would sob.

At the age of ten, I announced I wanted to play the trumpet. Mom decided there were plenty of trumpet players, but very few good french hornists. She figured that the whole Vietnam skirmish was going to blow up into a full-scale war, and if I was a french horn player and was drafted (eight years down the road), I’d be in the army band instead of the infantry, and therefore less likely to be killed. Besides, Mom told me, both instruments were in the brass section, and after the war blew over I could switch to the trumpet.

Ten years old, but practicing to avoid the infantry.

With the possible exception of Pete Seeger, the Chad Mitchell Trio, and (somewhat suspect) Danny Kaye, no one tugged at my mother’s heartstrings more than Peter, Paul and Mary. Since they were performing, and because the concert was called The Winter Festival for Peace, she let me attend.

“Okay, Barry. You can go. But you must be home by two. Tops.”

The Garden event was huge. It was perhaps the biggest rally against the war up until that time. Many hours into the concert, as thrilling and emotional as it had been, we were all aware that everything would be eclipsed by Jimi’s performance, if he actually came back.

We were all expecting greatness, although with Hendrix, you knew it could go either way. He was having his addiction issues and there were rumors he wasn’t happy with his band, but it was also a night of great hope. We had all come together, audience and musicians, to somehow stop a war. And Hendrix was going to bring us home.

The arena exploded in screams and cheers and poundings on the bottom half of our seats as Hendrix reappeared. He spent a long time tuning his guitar, adding to the tension. Jimi would stop and start, then go over to various Gypsies and whisper something. He seemed agitated and angry.

Okay. So that’s the scene. He was ready. Though twitchy, it was evident that Jimi was pulling it together and something special was about to happen. Twenty-two thousand attendees leaned forward in rapt silence as Jimi nodded to his band.

We were about to witness history.

As his left hand started the motion to make contact with his guitar strings, breaking the tense silence, the following announcement echoed over the Garden’s public address system:

“Barry Sonnenfeld.

Call your mother.”

Three things happened at once:

1. A chant, which started in my section of the cheap blue seats, of “Baaaaareeee, Baaaaareeee, Baaaaareeee,” began to gel in a rhythm and volume that only a Garden crowd could achieve. It cascaded toward the more expensive orange and red seats below.

2. Jimi, feeling a disturbance—although I suspect the actual “Baaaaareeee” chant had not quite become auditory on the Garden floor—sensed yet another “something” was fucking with him and didn’t get off to a clean start.

3. I, Barry Sonnenfeld, started to cry. I knew the only possible reason I was being summoned to call my mother was that my father was dead and I would be spending the rest of my life living alone with Kelly as a skinny, unappealing virgin.

By standing up, I effectively announced to my surrounding peaceniks that yes, I was, indeed, Barry Sonnenfeld, and that, yes, I was going to call my mother.

The chant grew louder.

Weeping, mucous pouring out my nose, I stumbled to a pay phone, put a dime into the slot, picked up the receiver—sticky from years of mustard, ketchup, and relish hands—and dialed my home phone number: WAdsworth 8-6160.

As it started to ring, I imagined the myriad obstacles that had lain in the path of Mom’s attempt to reach me: from getting someone to actually answer the phone at the Garden, to convincing them that the issue at hand was so important—the death of an only child’s parent—that Jimi Hendrix had to be interrupted. But Kelly’s skill at manipulation, especially playing the helpless victim, was her strength.

My father, although a consumer of sixteen ounces of sour cream a night, was a healthy man. He did a tremendous amount of walking, calling on various lighting designers, architects, and studio engineers, trying to sell them lights and dimmer board equipment. Just the walk from the A train subway station to our apartment was a quarter of a mile. In spite of all that exercise, I knew that Nathan J. “Sonny” Sonnenfeld just had a massive heart attack.

Mom picked up the phone and not surprisingly, given the fact that my father was dead, was, like me, weeping uncontrollably.

“Mom. Is everything okay?”


“Is everyone all right?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Dad. Is he dead?”


“Mom. Who died?”

“I thought you did!”

“What are you talking about?”

“You said you would be home by two. It’s two-twenty.”

“But did they not tell you the concert was still going on?”

“Yes. Yes, they did. But they couldn’t confirm you were there. Come home right now.”

“Dad’s okay?”

“Sonny? Of course he’s okay. He’s sound asleep for a change. What else is new?”

Mom agreed that it was too late to take Judy home, given that she lived in Laurelton, Queens, the second to last stop on the F train, and allowed that Judy could sleep on the living room couch, which in earlier years had been reserved for Cousin Mike the Child Molester.

An important aside: Mike was my mother’s first cousin. Raul, a neighbor in my apartment building and my best friend growing up, and I called him Cousin Mike the Child Molester and shortened it to CM the CM. For several years in the early ’60s, while he was out of work, Mike lived with us, sleeping on our living room couch. He kept Kelly company, driving her to malls and antique shops. He also molested Raul, several other neighborhood kids, a few of my cousins, and, yes, me.

But hey, back to the Garden.

As I was walking down the steep concrete steps back to my seat, trying not to sled down the gooey, gummy, sticky slide of stairs, I sensed something was very wrong with Jimi.

It was a disaster.

Hendrix had stopped playing, about a song and a half into his scheduled forty-minute slot. Before putting down his guitar and wandering off stage, he said something that sounded like, “This is what happens when Earth fucks with Space. Never forget that. This is what happens.”

Peter Yarrow, the Peter of Peter, Paul and Mary, who was the MC and one of the planners of the concert, now gone so disastrously wrong, announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the cast of Hair.”

A few minutes later, they, and the entire Madison Square Garden audience, minus Judy Dakin and me—who were snaking our way through Penn Station trying to find the A train to take us up to Washington Heights—were singing “Let the Sun Shine In.”

The next morning, my parents went to work before Judy and I had our first class at Music & Art. Although it would be years before we went all the way, I did discover that morning that she wore wonderfully shiny magenta-colored panties. And that her kisses tasted like sour milk.

A few days later, Hendrix would tell Rolling Stone that, as he saw it, the Madison Square Garden disaster was “like the best ending I could possibly have come up with” for Band of Gypsies.

Eight months later, Hendrix was dead.

I blame my mother.


CM the CM, Part 1

Cousin Mike the Child Molester. 4 × 5 Polaroid.

The punch in the gut happened in early April 2014, when Raul, my boyhood best friend, now a writer, published a piece in an online journal in which he talked about being molested as a kid.

Finding his email address, I wrote: “CM the CM?”

“Yes,” he replied.

The next morning, I waited for Raul at the University Place Le Pain Quotidien. I arrived early and ate two chocolate croissants before he arrived so I could impress him by ordering the healthy oatmeal choice. I hadn’t seen him in fifty years.

Until early 1965, Raul had lived one floor below me in apartment 4A. In March of that year, he tried to burn down our building in an attempt to move far away from the child molester housed in our apartment. Although the building survived, he did enough damage to his apartment that his family was forced to move to the Upper West Side, putting five miles between himself and Cousin Mike.

Raul shared horror stories of how screwed up parts of his life were and how much he blamed my parents, Cousin Mike, and to a certain extent me for his years of molestation at the hands of CM the CM.

Somehow, although not without issues that still plague me, I had managed to live through the years of Mike’s molestations without too much personal damage. But I was devastated hearing what it had done to Raul.

Upon leaving Le Pain Quotidien, I took the IRT up to my father’s apartment to ask him why my parents allowed this to happen to us.

Dad was 94 at the time and, although he wore a hearing aid and used a walker, was still full of himself and his positive mental attitude toward all things Sonny. He lived in a cluttered apartment with his girlfriend, the multi Tony nominated lighting designer Jennifer Tipton.

Jennifer was twenty years younger than Dad. In some ways she was similar to my mother in that, unlike Sonny, she had taste. Poor Jennifer was surrounded by art purchased by my father and his second wife, now deceased, Honey Rose.

Sonny and Honey Rose’s taste tended toward “Times Square Going Out of Business” art—dogs playing poker; quotes from the pope, Frank Sinatra, and Descartes that glowed in ultraviolet light; and badly printed Andy Warhol reproductions of dollar bills.

Sonny was always cold, and the apartment’s temperature was old Jewish person hot. He wore a sweater. He offered me black coffee or tap water. I declined. I asked Jennifer if Dad and I could have a little alone time, and she offered up that she had to go to the bank. My father didn’t deserve Jennifer.

Dad in his early 90s at the time of this photo.

I told Sonny about my conversation with Raul and asked if he had hated Mom so much he was willing to sacrifice all these kids as well as his only child to Mike’s molestation just so my mother would have someone to hang out with, driving her to the Paramus Park Mall for the Magic Pan’s Chicken à la King crepes.

Dad, with no irony, provided the following explanation:

“First of all, Barry, don’t forget child molestation didn’t have the same stigma back then that it has now.

“Second, also remember, Kelly was very upset because of all the affairs I was having, and I thought having Mike around would cheer her up.

“And third, I never thought Mike was molesting you. I only thought he was playing with your penis.”

My ears started to ring.


“I only thought he was playing with your penis.”

“And that was okay with you?”

“Well. I play with my penis. It feels pretty good. Don’t you play with yours?”

“But Dad. We were children! It was terrifying. It was sickening. What kind of parent allows a man to touch his son’s penis?

“And may I point out, not that I want to continue this debate: you touching your penis is a decision you make. Would it still feel good if a man forced himself on you and played with your penis? Would that still feel ‘pretty good’?”

“I never thought of it that way.”

“Okay. I’m going now.”

That afternoon, I was meeting Jeff Price, a screenwriter friend from Telluride, at the New York Auto Show, something I used to do as a kid with my father and—because my story is full of dramatic irony—CM the CM.

I don’t know what I was thinking, going anywhere short of a walk-in psychiatric clinic or a padded cell, but as soon as I got to the Javits Center, I collapsed against the side of a new blood red GMC Yukon XL, in profound sciatic pain.

Ever since I started to direct movies in 1990, I’ve had sciatica, which, according to Howard Stern, Emma Thompson, and my back doctor, the late John Sarno, is brought on by unconscious narcissistic rage. Sarno’s theory is that I have profound rage about something or toward someone. My unconscious worries that if I express that anger, I will do irreparable damage to a relationship. The unconscious part of my brain’s solution is to give me so much pain—from my lower back to my tippy toes—that every waking minute is laser beamed exclusively on the pain, thus preventing me from having the mental strength to express that unspoken rage, possibly ending a relationship.

I have sciatica in spades.

Jeff was looking for an upgrade to his current GMC vehicle and was very interested in the third row of the new Yukon, which, at the press of a button, would drop down the last row of seats. He wondered out loud if that meant he would no longer have to take the third row out of his truck and store it in the garage when he went elk hunting.

Jeff was asking the salesman a lot of questions—good questions if you were interested in a new SUV, annoying questions if you were having an emotional, existential crisis. I bent over as if about to vomit. The sciatic pain was at a twenty-five-year high. I told Jeff I had to leave immediately, taking a minute out of the Yukon XL discussion to explain why. He was pretty impressed I had even managed to show up at the auto show, although disappointed we couldn’t explore a shiny 1989 Mazda MX-5 Miata, which he had mistaken for a 2015 high end Ferrari.

I waddled toward the distant cab stand, staggering from one identical looking car to another, desperate to get back to my wife, Sweetie, and our rental apartment at the Gehry building in the financial district of lower Manhattan.

Sweetie was out with friends. I spent the evening under a blanket, shaking the bed with sobs. My entire life I had convinced myself that my parents, flawed as they were, loved me. Surely, they hadn’t understood the full extent of Mike’s torturous abuse. But I was wrong. They knew. My father had just made a stupid joke about the unthinkable crimes against little children, including his only child, without any recognition of the seriousness of those acts. My mother, father, and CM the CM should have been jailed.


Depression Central

Weekdays, from 3:30 p.m., when she got home from teaching art at my elementary school, until she fell asleep, usually to Leroy Anderson’s composition “The Syncopated Clock,” which meant the start of The Late Show movie, you could find Kelly in the bedroom she shared with my father.

Rarely did she emerge.


  • "[Sonnenfeld's] moments of self-effacement...make him an ideal tour guide through the vagaries and hypocrisies of the entertainment industry.... He catalogs his own anxieties at length, sometimes to exorcise them and sometimes to fetishize them.... It is thrilling to ride shotgun."—David Itzkoff, The New York Times
  • "If I went to prison, and I saw that Barry Sonnenfeld was going to be my cellmate, I would think, 'Oh, this will be a breeze.'"—Jerry Seinfeld
  • "The extraordinary thing about Barry is how many truly strange and amazing chapters he's had in his life."—Neil Patrick Harris
  • "Writing a book this sharp, [Sonnenfeld is] puncturing the myth of the Director as God....A wild account of his life and times....Here we have not only a new entrant in the movie-director memoir genre but an even rarer beast: a book by someone in the entertainment industry who is neither self-aggrandizing nor self-important but uniquely, and painfully, candid."—The Wall Street Journal
  • "Hilarious."—Ryan Seacrest, "Live with Kelly and Ryan"
  • “An engaging storyteller…. In his memoir, Sonnenfeld is both hilarious and tragic…. Somehow the combination works: Sonnenfeld’s breezy style engages us and makes us believe, as Will Smith has joked, that if Barry Sonnenfeld can be a director, anyone can.”—Jeremy Hobson, NPR's "Here and Now"
  • "Barry's memoir is amazingly honest and brazenly hilarious. Now excuse me, I need to take a shower and try to get some of those images out of my head."—Cheryl Hines
  • "Sonnenfeld's autobiography is laced with funny, sometimes absurd, moments.—WBUR
  • "Anyone who has encountered Barry for any length of time has wondered how he came to be the way he is. The answer is hilariously, poignantly, and forthrightly told through various stories that resulted in me feeling nauseous, laughing out loud, blushing, and repeatedly saying under my breath, 'Oh my God, Barry.' Sometimes all of those things at once."—Allison Williams
  • "Barry Sonnenfeld's memoir is not unlike many of his films. It's an incredible story about an unlikely hero. There is action, adventure, comedy, horror-and just a little bit of porn."—Kelly Ripa
  • "Hilarious, full of heart, and there are no typos."
    Max Greenfield
  • "I couldn't put it down."
    Marc Maron
  • "The most purely enjoyable memoir I've ever read. The content of this neurotic genius's life is fascinating, complimented by his rare gift of storytelling."
    Patrick Warburton
  • "Exactly everything a good memoir should be."—Audible Editorial
  • "Outrageous and hilarious...written with poignant insight and real-life irony."—KATU AM Northwest
  • "Very funny...Told in his unmistakable voice."—WAMC
  • "A neurotic, revelatory treat...[Sonnenfeld] spins eye-opening yarns....It's brutally honest...memorable and hilarious."
  • "His utter lack of sentiment when it comes to his achievements makes for a tonic against the typical showbiz-dreamer's success story. It is also a very, very funny book....Sonnenfeld is a portraitist with an ironic sense of humour some would call quintessentially Jewish, and he can't help but find the humanity and hilarity in the horrorshows...uniquely insightful."—Film Freak Central
  • "Hilarious."—Atlanta Jewish Times
  • "An extremely Jewy memoir."—Jewish Telegraphic Agency
  • "Funny, wry, and thoroughly entertaining memoir. Sonnenfeld is, above all, a storyteller."—Bookpage
  • "A candid, sometimes dark, entertaining, anecdotal trip down memory lane from a Hollywood icon."—Booklist
  • "Sonnenfeld makes his debut as a memoirist with a brisk, funny recounting of his improbable rise to fame in the movie world...Zesty anecdotes about family, marriage, and fatherhood combine with Hollywood gossip to make for an entertaining romp."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "The voice of Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother is one for this moment...chock full of humor and pathos."—The Jewish News
  • "A very engaging read."—Everyday Decisions with Jo Firestone
  • "His powers of exposition are impressive....This is both a serious and a comical book--sort of like Sophie's Choice, only funnier."—The East Hampton Star
  • "Sonnenfeld leavens his many struggles with a substantial dose of humor. He might have endured much, but Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker reveals Sonnenfeld to be a survivor. It's also a testament to how the rivers of fate can push you in unexpected directions....Sonnenfeld comes up with a wealth of entertaining stories....Revel in the ruminations of a man whose youthful traumas seared but didn't scar him."—Book & Film Globe
  • "Amazing."—Peter Sagal, NPR's "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me"
  • "One of the funniest books I've ever read in my life."—Holly Firfer, CNN First Reads
  • "Insightful and entertaining." —IndieWire
  • “A perfect juicy read.”—CafeMom

On Sale
Sep 14, 2021
Page Count
368 pages
Hachette Books

Barry Sonnenfeld

About the Author

Barry Sonnenfeld is a filmmaker and writer who broke into the film industry as the cinematographer on the Coen Brothers' first three films: Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, and Miller's Crossing. He also was the director of photography on Throw Mamma from the Train, Big, When Harry Met Sally, and Misery. Sonnenfeld made his directorial debut with The Addams Family in 1991, and has gone on to direct a number of films including Addams Family Values, Get Shorty, and the first three Men in Blacks. His television credits include Pushing Daisies, for which he won an Emmy, Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and most recently Apple TV+'s Schmigadoon.

Learn more about this author